Say so long to romance-reading stigma and hello to The First Chapter Book Shop, which celebrates its opening this weekend with author signings and book merch galore.
Love is in the air: indie romance bookshop opening in Edinburgh
A caravan warehouse may be an unconventional place to sell books, but “unconventional” is what Adelaide’s first indie romance bookshop is all about.
The First Chapter Book Shop, which exclusively sells romance reads by Australian indie authors, is opening its first brick-and-mortar store on Saturday.
Having a physical store has been business owner Jess Weber’s goal since she opened The First Chapter Book Shop as an online store in 2021.
The First Chapter Book Shop
Level 2, Unit 2,
15 Sturton Road in Edinburgh
“My husband has a caravan business and when we were in his last shop, there wasn’t any space for me, so I decided to run my business at home,” she says.
“But I always thought, when we move and upgrade his shop, and if my store is doing really good, I can make an actual shop for myself.”
Until a few short weeks ago, the stacks of romance reads on offer at The First Chapter Book Shop were crammed into a spare room of Jess’s house.
“Looking at the shop now, I don’t know how it all fit in there,” she laughs.
The shop certainly offers all the books a romance reader could ask for, stocking over 10 sub-genres including sports romance, small town romance and dark fantasy romance.
“I stuck to romance in my shop, because that’s what I know,” Jess says.
“Romance is something that you can connect to. If you have something difficult in your life and you read a romance book, you get consumed by that world and it just takes you away from your problems and makes you happy.”
The First Chapter Book Shop’s opening day is on January 13 from 10am to 4pm
In the past, romance books have not been without their stigma, but Jess says attitudes towards the genre are fast-changing.
“Ten years ago, even five years ago, people would judge you for reading romance. They think of the Danielle Steel books, they think of your grandma reading romance,” she says.
“Now, indie authors have opened up the market with so many different types of genres and it’s become acceptable.
“We proudly read romance now and it’s getting so popular – there’s no stigma holding us back.
“And I think that’s in part due to BookTok and Bookstagram,” Jess says.
The First Chapter Book Shop is no exception to this trend; the store has cultivated a community of more than 7000 people across TikTok and Instagram since 2021, with book orders being placed across the country.
So, when Jess’s husband moved his caravan business to a larger warehouse in Edinburgh last year, Jess knew her shop was ready to expand into the physical world.
“When I announced my plan to open a physical shop on social media, I had a lot of people message me to tell me they’re so excited,” she says. “It’s been really, really nice. Scary nice.”
Despite being nestled in the upper storey of a warehouse, walking into The First Chapter Book Shop feels like walking into a cosy home library.
“This is just all me,” Jess says. “You go into my house, and it’s basically this. I like the whites, the creams; I’m a beige baby. It’s a very clean and modern look and I think that suits the books.
“I love the seating area, too. I wanted people to feel like they can sit down, chill and read a book.
“You want to stay, rather than buy something and leave like a regular shop.”
There’ll be further incentive to stick around on The First Chapter Book Shop’s opening day, as ten authors will be offering book signings downstairs.
Romance authors Bindi Kennedy, Katherine Jay, Sharon Woods, Louise Holland, Lorelei Johnson, Hailey Jade, Layla Pine, J.L. Skye, Helen Walton and Luci Fer will be signing.
“All of them are Australian indie authors,” Jess says.
“Actually, all of [the books I stock] are indie. I was going to stock traditionally published authors, but they get support from big bookshops and indie authors don’t.
“I’m happy to help anyone. Some people have messaged me to ask if they can have their book in my shop, and if it’s the right time and it’s what I sell, then absolutely, I bring them aboard,” she says.
In addition to the signing authors, The First Chapter Book Shop’s opening day features two local vendors: Panther and Pearl Designs, who will have an array of bookish merch on offer, and Bean There Brewed That, a vintage coffee van.
“Come in whenever you want throughout the day, look at books, get them signed by authors, enjoy some coffee,” Jess says.
“I’m really excited. I just love books, so I’m happy to share the love.”
The First Chapter Book Shop’s opening day is on January 13 from 10am to 4pm. You can find the shop at Level 2, Unit 2, 15 Sturton Road in Edinburgh.